The Australian Border Force Gets to Work


tags: Australian Border Force, Law Enforcement,

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From the December 2015 issue of the APJ.

On 1 July 2015 the Australian Border Force (ABF) came into existence and almost immediately received criticism from the media and elements of society in relation to aspects of its operations. Given the ABF’s new and unique place in Australia’s law enforcement community, and the interest of the APJ’s readership in law enforcement matters, the editorial team invited the ABF to provide an overview of its role, mandate and capacity. The APJ is very grateful to the ABF and its senior executive for providing the following article.


In October 2015, following a joint operation between the Australian Border Force (ABF) and Australian Federal Police (AFP), three men were arrested and charged for allegedly importing more than 70 kilograms of illicit drugs with an estimated street value of more than $45 million. This seizure is one of the largest seizures ever made at an Australian international airport.

In June 2015, the Commonwealth Government announced the establishment of a new dedicated task force. Led by the ABF and the Fair Work Ombudsman, and working closely with various other agencies including State and Territory police, Joint Task Force Cadena now targets organised criminal networks and labour hire contractors seeking to profit by exploiting both illegal and legitimate workers.

The task force has undertaken a number of compliance operations since its establishment and by mid-October 2015 they had detained 60 unlawful non-citizens and arrested three people for breaches of the Migration Act 1958. The task force is also assessing 31 allegations of organised labour exploitation and had developed a target list of 65 entities. 

Operations like the above are an excellent demonstration of the way the newly established ABF is working closely with a range of other law enforcement, intelligence and government agencies to protect Australia’s borders, the safety of the community, and Australia’s economic prosperity.


The intention to establish the ABF, the operational arm of the new Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), was announced by former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison on 9 May 2014.

Mr Morrison said that the concept of establishing a single border agency was not new, and had been a theme of global border reform for decades, in particular in the United States of America, through the Homeland Security Department and a series of reforms at the United Kingdom’s Home Office.

“In bringing together this reform we have studied their failures and their successes. The model proposed is a hybrid of the current UK Home Office model that has also evolved from their experience…we have learned and applied the lessons of their reform processes,” Mr Morrison said.

The ABF was established on 1 July 2015. The first ABF Commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg APM, was sworn in at a ceremony presided over by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the day, with some 2800 officers sworn in over the following months.

The ABF brought together the existing operational border, investigations, compliance, detention and enforcement functions of both the former Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and DIBP ...

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